Aug. 22 (UPI) — North Korea continued to rail against South Korea’s joint military exercises with the United States and its purchase of U.S. military hardware on Thursday, warning the moves would “trigger a new cold war on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.”
In a statement released Thursday, an unnamed spokesperson for North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned South Korea’s “dangerous and unnatural military moves,” singling out the country’s purchase of F-35A stealth fighters from the United States.
“This act of continuously introducing the cutting-edge lethal equipment is a grave provocation,” the spokesperson said.
Seoul has ordered 40 of the F-35A stealth fighters, which are manufactured by Lockheed Martin and can fly at speeds up to Mach 1.8.
South Korea received delivery of two of the aircraft on Wednesday at an airbase Cheongju, located 87 miles south of Seoul, bringing its current total to six. Two more aircraft are scheduled to arrive in a matter of days, and the entire order will be delivered by 2021.
The North Korean spokesperson also condemned the Pentagon’s test of a new type of modified Navy Tomahawk cruise missile, which was launched from San Nicolas Island in California on Sunday, as well as Washington’s planned sales of F-35B and F-16V fighters to Japan and Taiwan.
The Pentagon said the ground-launched missile accurately struck its target after flying more than 500 kilometers (310 miles). It was the first such test since the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a 1987 arms-control pact with the then-Soviet Union that banned Washington and Moscow from testing or deploying ground-launched missiles with ranges from 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,400 miles).
The North Korean spokesperson said that the military buildup is “reducing the dynamics of dialogue for building a lasting and durable peace on the Korean Peninsula,” and cautioned that North Korea was being compelled to turn its attention to “strengthening the physical deterrence.”
“We have underlined time and again that the joint military exercises and the build-up of armed forces in South Korea are dangerous acts detrimental to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.
North Korea has conducted six missile launches since late July, firing off what experts have determined to be at least two new types of short-range ballistic missiles.
The spokesperson said that North Korea remains open to resuming dialogue with the United States.
“We remain unchanged in our position to resolve all issues in a peaceful manner through dialogue and negotiation,” the spokesperson said. “However, dialogue accompanied by military threats is of no interest to us.”
Nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea have been stalled since a failed summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi in February.
At a surprise meeting between Trump and Kim at the inter-Korean border in June, both sides announced that working-level negotiations for another summit would start soon, but new talks have yet to be held.
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun has been in Seoul since Tuesday, meeting with officials to discuss North Korean denuclearization. He said on Wednesday that the United States was ready to resume talks with North Korea “as soon as we hear from our counterparts.”
On Thursday, South Korean Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Hyun-chong told reporters after a meeting with Biegun that he believed nuclear talks would resume soon between Washington and Pyongyang.
“The impression that I got was that the dialogue between the North and the United States appears likely to unfold soon,” Kim said.